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Delaware Courts start issuing bench warrants again

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Courts are resuming issuing bench warrants for people who fail to show up for court. This comes as court officials navigate operating with COVID restrictions in place.  

Delaware Court stopped issuing “failure to appear” warrants, or capiases, at the start of the pandemic. Limited court operations resumed in June after the COVID lockdown, but not until this week did the courts resume issuing warrants for skipping out on court. 

The courts have been operating in phase two of its reopening plan, with capacity restrictions in place and many of the proceedings being performed online. 

Justice of the Peace Court Chief Magistrate Alan Davis says court proceedings have had unique challenges during the pandemic.

“We’ve had a mixed measure of success,” said Davis. “Some of the system was not set up to be prepared for this. So, sometimes we didn’t have as good of contact information as you might have if we had been going down this path directly.”   

Davis adds his failure to appear rate is up to about 35% from just over 20% before the pandemic. 

“We believe that the failure to appear rate has increased partially because there are not warrants being issued,” he said. “Really it came down to a policy decision at this point. That at some time we need to as a criminal justice system need to issue these capiases bench warrants again.”   

With capiases now being issued anyone who fails to attend criminal, traffic, or a Family Court matter will face the possibility of arrest. 

Delaware courts enter phase three of reopening in October which will increase staff to 75% capacity. 

Davis says this will help address the backlog of cases built up during the lockdown.

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